Skip to main content.
Guides

Arts and Culture in Ottawa

Find a place to stay

Canada's capital city boasts ornate, historical buildings, impressive museums, and a rich cultural calendar to keep you busy all year round. The diversity of the city is reflected in its eclectic arts scene, and there's a strong French influence left over from its past, with architecture and design that would look at home in many European cities.

 

Historic buildings

 

Ottawa's buildings date back to the Victorian era, so you can expect lots Gothic touches such as jagged towers, arching ceilings, and intricate decorations. As a capital city, many of Canada's central operations are taken care of here, so you'll find grand, important government buildings, as well as historic homes that belonged to famous Ottawans.

 

Parliament Hill

 

The romantic Neo-Gothic buildings of Parliament Hill are a focal point for the city, sitting amid neatly landscaped gardens on the banks of the river. As it's still home to the Senate and House of Commons, you might be lucky enough to catch a live debate, or you can book a tour to really appreciate the complex architecture and decor of these important buildings.

 

111 Wellington Street, Ottawa ON K1A 0A6. Tel:+1 613 992 4793

 

Parliament Hill website
Supreme Court

 

As the highest court in Canada, some of the most important trials in the country's history have been held at the Supreme Court, and this imposing, Art Deco-styled building has an air of grandeur around it. Arrive via the Grand Entrance Hall and you'll see it lives up to its name, with floor to ceiling marble and sweeping staircases, then be sure to visit the many courtrooms and galleries with their unique styles.

 

301 Wellington Street, Ottawa ON K1A 0J1. Tel:+1 613 995 4330

 

Supreme Court website

 

Art galleries

 

Ottawa's art galleries have a strong focus on encouraging up and coming Canadian talent. However, there are also plenty of exhibits, both permanent and touring, from famous international artists, with the city attracting big names.

 

National Gallery of Canada

 

A bright and contemporary gallery that can easily be spotted thanks to its gleaming glass structure, the National Gallery of Canada is one of the country's most respected art institutions. Its list of collections is vast, with famous names from Canada, America, and Europe, as well as more obscure artists, and historic pieces such as Native and Inuit art. There's also a calendar of events and visiting exhibitions so you can try something a little different.

 

380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa ON K1N 9N4. Tel:+1 613 990 1985

 

National Gallery of Canada website

 

Museums

 

Ottawa's status as the capital means it's the natural place to learn about the country's history. There's a network of small, community museums set in historic homes, which mainly specialize in local history and how early settlers lived. There's also this poignant homage to turbulent times.

 

Canadian War Museum

 

The jutting postmodern exterior of the Canadian War Museum houses military planes and vehicles, fully restored for visitors so that you can view them up close. There are several permanent exhibitions dedicated to different areas of Canada's military, as well as a reflective Memorial Hall that honors those who died while defending their country.

 

1 Vimy Place, Ottawa ON K1A 0M8. Tel:+1 800 555 5621

 

Canadian War Museum website

 

Theater

 

Ottawa's theater scene celebrates the city's multiculturalism and diversity, with lots of small drama groups and experimental, artistic shows. There are also a few larger theaters downtown, and here you'll be able to take in major plays, avant-garde dance, touring Broadway shows, and classical music.

 

National Arts Centre

 

The boxy, concrete National Arts Centre was created in a Brutalist style, although luckily it's much prettier on the inside. Showing plays in French and English, the center has 3 main performance areas, with the U-shaped Southam Hall holding the biggest productions.

 

53 Elgin Street, Ottawa ON K1P 5W1. Tel:+1 613 947 7000

 

National Arts Centre website